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Iraq voices: provincial elections

Iraqis vote in provincial elections on 31 January. The disputed oil province of Kirkuk and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region are the only areas not being polled.

Religious parties won the majority of the votes last time Iraqis voted in 2005.

MOHAMMED JABER, Baghdad

Mohammed Jabar

It is illegal to use religious symbols in political campaigning, but many of the parties are doing so. I notice [Iraq's biggest Shia party] the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council [ISCI] doing this the most.

In the last elections, these parties promised poor people they would go to paradise if they voted for them. I don't like it.

I always vote; I think it's important. The issues that matter to me are corruption, security, education and healthcare.

I am Shia Muslim, but my vote depends on a candidate's qualification, not on his religious affiliation.

Last time I voted for Iyad Allawi and his secular party. I might vote for him again - he is not using religion to guide the minds of people. Then again, I might vote for the [Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's] Dawa Party, instead.

Security in my neighbourhood, and other neighbourhoods in Baghdad has improved, after all.

I don't think the results will be too different from last time, although there needs to be a big change, to get rid of the corruption.

HAZIM, Basra
The main issues for me in this election are jobs and foreign investment in Basra, but I won't be voting.

Hazim Qasim

I did vote last time. I voted for a woman I know well who was made deputy chairman of Basra provincial council after the election.

But a very senior person in the council threatened her, saying she had to keep quiet about all the illegal deals she saw being made by council members - or she would get killed.

She refused. So he told her she had to use the general entrance to the council chamber, used by the public, not the back gate with extra security protection that all the other members used.

This was to let her know he was serious and meant to harm her. So, last year she fled Basra.

I have no faith that the elections will be fair.

Currently the power is in the hands of [Islamic parties] Fadhila, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council [ISCI] and Dawa.

I think the last two will make gains at the expense of the first, by cheating.

ALAA GADBAN, Baji, north of Baghdad

Alaa Gadban

I didn't vote last time because of the terrible security situation in the Sunni triangle, where I am.

I will not vote this time because the heads of the party lists are Baath party loyalists; remnants of a bygone regime who I would rather not see in power.

The important issues to me are security and investment. My area is solidly Sunni Muslim, so there is not the sectarian division you get in Baghdad or Baquba.

I think Iraqis will favour secular candidates, because the religious parties have been shown to fail over the last few years. They oversaw a rise in sectarian clashes around Iraq.

I think we are optimistic because this election comes at a time of relative stability, in contrast to the chaos of previous times.

All the corruption we see is a natural result of Saddam Hussein's school of robbery and cheating.

Candidates fall into two categories: patriots and opportunists. The first are prepared to die for their cause but they are rare and outnumbered by the second, who use their positions to get rich.

Surely the opportunists' share of the vote must shrink, because Iraqis are fed up with their fruitless propaganda?

JAMAL ABDULLAH, Baghdad

The area I live in, al-Jihad district, was controlled by the Sadrists [supporters of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr], but their grip has weakened and so there is fierce competition for votes.

The main issues for voters are improving services and realising the projects we were promised.

I voted last time and will vote now because the result has an immediate effect on my life.

The religious parties that came into power last time failed and only brought sectarianism. I predict a rise for independent and liberal parties as a result.

Dergham, Baghdad

Dergham

The general mood here is one of frustration and pessimism because the people who were elected last time didn't do their job properly and didn't help us when we needed it most.

I didn't vote last time because none of the competing lists convinced me that it could improve the situation.

Things haven't changed much. The current guidelines allow lists to publish their candidates' names and pictures, resulting in the walls being filled with posters.

There is talk of vote-buying which adds to my distrust of these elections and so I will not vote this time.

MOHAMMED ABDUL QADER, Baghdad
Mohammed Abdel Qadir

I'm among the minority of people who will vote because people are frustrated and seem to think that there's a lot of trickery involved in these elections.

I will vote for The Civilians' List because it represents independent and liberal parties which will hopefully overturn the sectarian tide that has swept Iraq in recent years.

There will be some rigging but I'm hopeful that it will be minimal and with limited effect.

Several of these interviews were carried out by BBCArabic.com.



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